The Supreme Court once again has shown its strong preference for enforcing the terms of arbitration agreements as written by the parties. In Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer & White Sales Inc., Justice Kavanaugh’s first written opinion, the Court held that when an arbitration agreement delegates the threshold question of arbitrability to an arbitrator, the arbitrator, not a court, should decide the question, even if it is clear to a court that the dispute is not covered by the arbitration agreement. This unanimous opinion adds to a growing body of recent Supreme Court case law making clear that the terms of arbitration agreements, like any other contract, should be enforced as written and without policy considerations or exceptions. Continue Reading Supreme Court Enforces Yet Another Arbitration Agreement
The California Supreme Court has ruled that California employers cannot rely on the federal de minimis doctrine to avoid claims for unpaid wages on small amounts of time. Under the de minimis doctrine, employers may be excused from paying workers for small amounts of otherwise compensable time if the work is irregular and administratively difficult to record. Federal Courts have frequently found that daily periods of approximately 10 minutes are de minimis even though otherwise compensable.
In Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, the California Supreme Court held that California wage and hour laws have not adopted the FLSA’s de minimis doctrine. As a result, Starbucks was not permitted to avoid paying an employee who regularly spent several minutes per shift working off-the-clock. The Supreme Court acknowledged, however, that there may be circumstances involving “employee activities that are so irregular or brief in duration that it would not be reasonable to require employers to compensate employees for the time spent on them.”
The California Supreme Court has adopted a new three-part test to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee under California’s wage orders, which regulate wages, hours, and working conditions. The highly anticipated ruling could have wide ranging effects for businesses operating in California and beyond, as companies try to navigate the new gig economy.
Last Monday, the California Supreme Court in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. clarified the meaning of California’s requirement that all working employees be provided with suitable seating “when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” Answering three questions raised by the Ninth Circuit, the Court ruled that:
(1) The “nature of the work” refers to an employee’s tasks performed at a given location for which a right to a suitable seat is claimed, rather than a “holistic” consideration of the entire range of an employee’s duties anywhere on the jobsite during a complete shift. If the tasks being performed at a given location reasonably permit sitting, and provision of a seat would not interfere with performance of any other tasks that may require standing, a seat is called for;
(2) Whether the nature of the work reasonably permits sitting is a question to be determined objectively based on the totality of the circumstances. An employer’s business judgment and the physical layout of the workplace are relevant but not dispositive factors. The inquiry focuses on the nature of the work, not an individual employee’s characteristics; and
(3) The nature of the work aside, if an employer argues there is no suitable seat available, the burden is on the employer to prove unavailability.
On March 1, 2016, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) sued employers for the first time for sexual orientation discrimination. The EEOC filed lawsuits in federal courts in Pittsburgh and Baltimore against manufacturing and health care employers for unlawful sex discrimination on behalf of employees alleging they were harassed and discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
On Friday October 2, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1506 into law, amending California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) to provide an employer the right to cure certain technical violations of the California Wage Statement Law (Labor Code § 226) before the employer can be sued. The law sets forth specific steps that must be taken before a technical violation can be cured.
The Ninth Circuit ruled on Monday, September 28, that California Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) claims cannot be waived in employment arbitration agreements, following the rule announced by the California Supreme Court in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal. 4th 348 (2014). With this 2-1 ruling, the Ninth Circuit majority found that the Iskanian rule barring PAGA waivers is not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).